ERAU takes Drone Demo to Alva, Oklahoma to Teach how to Assess Storm Damage

May 23, 2017


Dan Macchiarella, PhD, professor at ERAU-Daytona Beach, Florida, was in Alva talking on the topic of drone use. He is pictured in a trailer that provided large screen images from three drones that were flying near
Northwest Technology Center south of Alva.
Photo by ERAU-Daytona Beach
Dan Macchiarella, Ph.D, a  professor with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, was in Alva talking on the topic of drone use. He is pictured in a trailer that provided large screen images from three drones that were flying near Northwest Technology Center south of Alva.

A group of technicians along with several teachers from Embry-Riddle University were in Oklahoma City near the State Capitol demonstrating drone technology. They received word of possible tornados in northwest Oklahoma so they moved their trailer full of drones to the Northwest Technology Center (NWTC) campus in Alva.

The timing was perfect as a regular meeting of local emergency responders was finishing up, so the men and women of the class could observe how drone technology might be used to assess damage from the air using drones.

 Macchiarella, and his team were successful in launching three or four DJI brand drones despite the gusty winds on the flat plain near NWTC. Inside an observation trailer, large monitors displayed the output of the drone cameras.

Macchiarella told us Embry-Riddle started their unmanned aircraft program in 2011. He said the reason his crew was in Oklahoma was to work with the state on how to respond to disasters using drone technology. The drones can provide a live video feed that the responders can see on their smart phones.

"We can also use our systems to map the destruction of, say, a tornado path," he said.
The trailer of the Embry-Riddle unmanned aircraft demonstration team drew a nice crowd of those interested in drone technology. Three drones were flying at the time of this photo. Northwest Technology Center will offer a four-hour drone orientation course Nov. 8 and 15, 2017
Photo by ERAU-Daytona Beach
He said Embry-Riddle chose Oklahoma because of the wide variety of emergencies that seem to occur in the
state. The instructor said the drones they have are infrared capable so they can also be used at night.

The trailer of the Embry-Riddle unmanned aircraft demonstration team drew a nice crowd of those interested in drone technology. Three drones were flying at the time of this photo. Northwest Technology Center will offer a four-hour drone orientation course Nov. 8 and 15, 2017.

DJI is the most popular brand, holding about 70 percent of the drone market. He said small communities can likely afford the Phantom IV model that ranges in price from $1,200 to $2,000, depending upon extra accessories added. He also likes the DJI Inspire II, which is very capable and varies in cost from $2,000 to $6,000.

Intel, 3-D Robotics are competing brands to DJI that also produce fine drones, he said.

Macchiarella said OSU has an unmanned aircraft program. NWTC Superintendent Gerald Harris said that the vo-tech district has applied for a large grant that might put significant drone programs in place at both the Alva and Fairview campuses.

Embry-Riddle has three campuses nationwide: one in Daytona Beach; one in Prescott, Arizona; and lastly the "World Wide Campus," which is primarily for adult education.

"We have a site at Tinker Air Force Base and many other military bases," he said.

When asked "How are you handling the FAA rule that you must keep your drone within line of site?"

Macchiarella said, "We are keeping our drones within line of site; however, you can apply for waivers from the FAA."

Written by Lynn L. Martin, Alva Review-Courier